In this article, you'll learn...
- Three steps to checking the usability of your website
- Tips for improving the user experience on your website
- The importance of website content, layout, and testing
How long do users stay on websites? According to usability expert Jakob Nielsen, "not very long." In an age of information overflow, user experience can be the key factor that determines whether visitors get the information they need from your website.
User experience is becoming an extension of the customer experience model—and, undoubtedly, experience matters. Companies that will stay ahead of the curve are those that are constantly refining their content, adapting to an always-changing technology landscape, and asking their customers what they want and how they want it delivered.
So, how does the user experience on your website measure up? Here is a three-step approach to analyzing the usability of your website, along with key guidelines for improving its usability.
1. Analyze the content
Odds are you wrote much of the content for your website. Well, maybe not you, but your marketing team or your company's management team. The point is that you are very familiar with your content. But are your users?
Consider the following when writing or analyzing content for your website:
- Does your content pass the "common knowledge" test? You may be familiar with your processes and product or service offerings, but visitors to your site may not be. Use language that a broad audience can understand, and avoid acronyms or terms that are confusing.
- Don't be long-winded. Your nine-paragraph description of your top-selling product probably sounded great when you first wrote it. You included all of the intricacies and specifications—anything anyone would ever want to know! But do you think your clients have time to read nine paragraphs? Probably not. Keep content concise, and break up text with illustrations or photographs when possible.
- Not all at once. People can't handle information in large chunks. That's why we add hyphens to phone numbers, and why text messaging is so popular. Try implementing a "progressive disclosure" system of displaying information on your site. Show small chunks of information first—enough for the user to get a good understanding of what you're saying. Then, give her the ability to drill down and obtain more detailed information.
2. Look at the layout
One of the biggest hurdles for Web designers is the ever-changing landscape of devices that can access the Web. During your last website redesign, your website probably looked great in the browser you viewed it in. But what does your site look like on an iPhone or an iPad? How does it look on a projector in a conference room?